Hoaxes & Rumors

Debunked: Photos that “Prove” Stonehenge was Built in 1898 or 1954

Debunked: Photos that “Prove” Stonehenge was Built in 1898 or 1954

A set of photos circulating online show “proof” that Stonehenge was built in modern times, with the years 1898 and 1954 often cited.

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The claims are false.

Let’s first take a look at some common captions and photos in circulation:

Historians and archaeologists have been speculating for years as to why Stonehenge was built: was it an astronomical observatory, a health spa, or a cemetery? Yet there are no definite answers. More recently, published photos showed that Stonehenge is a hoax, not built around 5000-years-ago, but in 1898! Could it be? What do you think is the truth behind this enigma of blue stones?

Below is a photo often included with captions like the one above, offered as “proof” that Stonehenge was constructed in modern times.

stonehenge-workers

Excavation

The image above does not show construction of a new monument, but that of an excavation which occurred back in 1919 through 1920 by William Hawley. Additional restoration was headed by Sir Frank Baines, with Hawley retained in an “advisory capacity.” It was believed at that time that portions of the monument were in danger of collapse.

There have been many excavations at the site over the centuries, dating back to the 1600’s.  For an excellent summary of the 1920 excavations, see No spin at Stonehenge in 1920 by Mike Pitts.

Below is an article from The Deseret News in 1920 which discusses the repair project:

stonehenge-full

Documentaries

For a more recent investigation into the age of Stonehenge, the BBC has several videos related to Stonehenge. At the 3:30 mark of the video, photos of past archaeological digs are shown, including the first photo which shows William Hawley from 1919. The documentary’s conclusion on the age of Stonehenge summarizes:

“The first stones to arrive were the bluestones. We now know they were erected at the site in 2300 BC. We don’t know why, but they were taken down 200 years later.” The sarsen stones were put up around 2100 BC, followed by several rings of bluestones. Finally, the massive circle of sarsens “enclosed the whole thing.” Over 4000 years, it fell into a slow decline due to neglect, theft, and time.

Another video (below) entitled “Digging For the Truth: Stonehenge Secreets Revealed” by the History Channel notes that radio carbon dating can be used to date the tools used to dig the ditches that formed Stonehenge, such as deer antler picks. Some of those picks were left at the bottom of the ditch, which can help date the dig site. “Because there were lots of them and we can get lots of radio carbon dates,” Julian Richards said,” then we know that this ditch was dug between 3,000 and 2920 BC.”

Bottom Line

Stonehenge was not built in 1898 or 1954. Photos offered as “proof” of this are merely evidence of excavations which occurred at the site in the 20th century. Archaeologists agree the monument was built at least 4000 years ago.

Updated May 15, 2015
Originally published March 2014

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